Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s vivid memories of the vibrant Holi festivities in India serve as a poignant backdrop as he eagerly prepares to welcome his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, to Sydney. The city, bustling with a dynamic Indian diaspora, sets the stage for a significant milestone in the evolving partnership between the two nations.

A mere two months ago, Mr. Albanese himself immersed in the revelry of Holi, engaging with students at the prestigious IIT Delhi. Today, it is Mr. Modi’s turn to embrace Sydney, propelling this multifaceted alliance to new heights after a remarkable transformation over the past decade.

In a display of unwavering dedication, Prime Minister Modi’s decision to proceed with his visit to Australia, despite Canberra’s last-minute cancellation of the Quad summit in Sydney, underscores his personal commitment to elevate the India-Australia partnership. While US President Joe Biden opted to safeguard America’s reputation, wary of a debt default by the world’s largest economy, due to the Quad summit, PM Modi has chosen a different path. By persisting with his engagements in Papua New Guinea and Australia, he has signaled a fresh “Look Pacific” approach, countering China’s escalating influence in the strategically significant region. With the Quad summit now relocated to Hiroshima, the focus inevitably shifts to the India-Australia relationship, taking center stage in one of the world’s most livable cities.

The Significance of PM Modi’s Visit: Unveiling the Real Implications

Beyond the superficial optics, the question arises: what makes Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Australia such a consequential affair? The answer lies in a multitude of compelling reasons that underpin the deepening India-Australia connection. At the forefront is the notable alignment of strategic interests and the shared political commitment to forging new paths in this relationship.

With the cancellation of the Quad summit, it was Prime Minister Albanese who swiftly extended an invitation to PM Modi, emphasizing the urgency of the occasion. In response, PM Modi, without hesitation, upheld his original itinerary for the three-nation tour, a deliberate move acknowledging Australia’s increasingly vital role within India’s foreign policy calculus. This swift and resolute decision signifies the growing importance that Australia holds for India.

Of paramount significance is the recent Defense Strategic Review, which stands as Australia’s most momentous evaluation since the conclusion of World War II. This review categorizes India as a “key power” and asserts that Australia must actively expand its relationships and pragmatic cooperation with pivotal powers, including Japan and India.

The acknowledgment of India’s pivotal role in the review underscores the momentous nature of PM Modi’s visit, revealing a strategic convergence between the two nations. This convergence not only presents a remarkable opportunity for enhanced collaboration but also signifies a broader recognition of India’s ascendant status in the global arena.

As PM Modi’s visit unfolds, it becomes increasingly evident that the implications extend far beyond mere optics. The engagement between India and Australia carries the potential to reshape regional dynamics, ushering in a new era of cooperation, and solidifying their positions as key players on the international stage.

Geopolitical Maneuvers: Navigating the Chinese Chessboard

Another compelling aspect of Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Australia lies in India’s strategic imperative to counterbalance China’s pervasive influence in the Pacific region. Against this complex backdrop, Modi’s presence sends a resounding message to Australia’s political and diplomatic establishment, solidifying India’s role as a dependable partner and a formidable counterweight to Beijing’s regional aspirations.

Notably, Modi’s visit occurs at a time when Canberra and Beijing have seemingly reconciled after a protracted period of acrimony and confrontational rhetoric. However, beneath the surface of this apparent d├ętente, the underlying causes of discord and mistrust persist, casting a shadow of doubt over the newfound stability. While Australia, driven by economic considerations, has sought to stabilize its relationship with Beijing, the fundamental points of contention and mutual distrust continue to simmer beneath the surface.

In a deft balancing act between safeguarding its own interests and navigating the need for limited accommodation with China, Australia has maintained steadfast positions on contentious issues. These include the exclusion of Huawei from its 5G network, legislation to counter foreign interference, and vocal advocacy for human rights. In light of this dynamic, it becomes imperative for India to expand and diversify its economic and security partnership with Australia, facilitating the latter’s ability to reduce its economic reliance on Beijing.

As the chessboard of international power dynamics unfolds, Modi’s visit assumes heightened significance, presenting a unique opportunity for India and Australia to forge a robust alliance that not only addresses immediate concerns but also strategically bolsters their positions in the face of China’s expanding influence. This delicate geopolitical dance demands a careful maneuvering of interests and an astute understanding of the intricate moves required to navigate the intricate game of Chinese checkers.

The Imperative of Critical Minerals: Paving the Path in Sydney

Amidst the grandeur of Sydney, the pursuit of forging robust supply chains for critical minerals will take center stage. The leaders of India and Australia are poised to provide a resolute political impetus, expediting the implementation of an agreement between India’s KhanijBidesh Ltd (KABIL) and Australia’s Critical Minerals Office. This pact aims to ensure the sustainable development of critical minerals supply chains, recognizing their paramount importance in driving progress.

The deepening partnership on critical minerals with Australia assumes profound significance for India’s strategic objectives, particularly in its quest to reduce reliance on China for these vital resources. By bolstering ties with Australia, India aims to fortify its resilience and establish secure supply chains, effectively diversifying its sources and mitigating the risks associated with overdependence.

However, the significance extends beyond immediate concerns. The establishment of secure, resilient, and sustainable critical minerals supply chains holds the key to India’s grand ambition of assuming the mantle of a renewable energy superpower. Recognizing the pivotal role of critical minerals in renewable energy technologies, India’s vision of achieving sustainability and propelling a green revolution hinges upon a robust and well-orchestrated supply chain.

In Sydney, against the backdrop of bustling diplomatic activity, the leaders of India and Australia will align their efforts, propelling the implementation of the KABIL-Critical Minerals Office agreement. Through this concerted endeavor, both nations aspire to harness the transformative potential of critical minerals, driving economic growth, environmental stewardship, and technological advancement.

As the curtains rise on this crucial chapter, Sydney’s stage becomes a crucible of political determination, where the pursuit of secure and sustainable critical minerals supply chains aligns with India’s larger ambition of charting a path towards renewable energy dominance.

Elevating Diplomacy: Setting New Standards

In the realm of international relations, the true measure of success lies in the realm of commerce, and it is in this sphere that a wave of positive developments is anticipated. Economic diplomacy takes center stage as Prime Minister Modi engages with the CEOs of esteemed Australian corporations on May 23rd.

Building upon the foundation of the Economic Cooperation Trade Agreement (ECTA), both leaders are poised to issue directives, urging officials to expedite negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) by 2023. This concerted effort seeks to raise the bar and commits to a substantial increase in bilateral trade, aiming to elevate it from the current $35 billion to an impressive $50 billion within the next five years. However, the ambitious business community sets their sights even higher, envisioning an audacious bilateral trade target of $100 billion.

The ECTA has already catalyzed a transformation in the prevailing perception of India in Australia, dispelling the notion that it is a challenging place to conduct business. Nevertheless, the path ahead demands unwavering dedication and arduous work in this realm. While the groundwork has been laid, a concerted effort is required to overcome remaining hurdles and unlock the full potential of the burgeoning economic ties.

As the curtains rise on this pivotal moment, the pursuit of economic prosperity takes precedence, transcending national boundaries. The engagement between Prime Minister Modi and the esteemed business leaders symbolizes a collective commitment to set new standards, forging a path that propels bilateral trade to unprecedented heights.

In this relentless pursuit of economic advancement, diplomacy assumes a new dimension, where the exchange of ideas, collaboration, and mutual prosperity converge. By raising the bar and striving for greater achievements, India and Australia embark on a transformative journey, one that propels their economic cooperation to new heights, underpinning their shared commitment to progress and mutual prosperity.

Charting the Path Ahead

As the India-Australia partnership gains momentum, driven by the growing confluence of economic and strategic interests, it propels itself into uncharted territory, transcending previous boundaries. While the imposing presence of China looms large on the agenda of Prime Minister Modi’s talks with his Australian counterpart on May 24th, it is crucial to avoid being ensnared by a single-minded focus on the China factor. Instead, it is imperative to acknowledge the unique attributes that set India and Australia apart.

Distinctive elements define the bond between these nations. There is no Chinese equivalent to the vibrant world of Bollywood, nor can any parallel be drawn to the kaleidoscope of flavors found in Indian cuisine. It is at the grand diaspora carnival at Sydney’s Olympic Park, where the Australian Prime Minister will also be in attendance, that the remarkable ties animating the Delhi-Canberra partnership come to life. This celebration serves as a testament to the enduring connections that bind these two nations together.

The clamor surrounding Modi’s visit in Sydney amplifies with each passing moment, as Indian-Australians secure bookings for charter buses and even a dedicated “Modi Airways” plane, eager to be part of this people’s carnival. It appears that India-Australia relations are poised to soar to new heights on the wings of “Modi Airways,” transcending the realms of curry and cricket. Together, these democracies embark on a journey to forge a truly multidimensional strategic partnership, reshaping the contours of the Indo-Pacific region, which is evolving into a vibrant, multipolar landscape.

As we navigate the complexities of global affairs, Manish Chand, CEO of the Centre for Global Insights India and Editor-in-Chief of India and the World, underscores the importance of this transformative phase. With a dedicated focus on international affairs, these platforms serve as critical conduits for engaging with global dynamics, while fostering a deeper understanding of the multifaceted opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

In this era of rapid change and shifting alliances, the road ahead beckons, urging India and Australia to seize the moment, building on their shared aspirations, and forging a path that not only advances their own interests but also contributes to the broader canvas of international relations.